What is your Lenten practice?

Published March 1, 2012

VORACIOUS READER “I get a couple of books and when Lent comes, start into them. I love it!”
illustrations by David Shaw

Pop culture may love Christmas and Easter, but Lent usually gets short shrift. Take the movie, Chocolat, for instance. In it, a French-Mayan woman (played by the comely Juliette Binoche) scandalizes an entire French village when she sets up her chocolate shop-just in time for Lent.

It’s a charming movie, but Lent is cast as a dour season during which the pious deprive themselves of pleasures such as…you guessed it…chocolate!

This year, staff writer Leigh Anne Williams asked Anglicans to share the Lenten practices they find most meaningful. Here’s what they said:

Bishop Mark MacDonald Toronto
The Lenten practice that has forever shaped my imagination comes from back home among the Ojibway in northern Minnesota. Every Sunday night during Lent, there is a potluck followed by hymn singing until 2 or 3 a.m. All the singing is in Ojibway, interspersed with stories, testimonies, Bible readings and prayers.

The Rev. Canon Travis Enright Edmonton
In the aboriginal community, Lent is [a time of] renewal, when you start preparing for a Sundance. I fast every Friday, but I also spend a long time, usually on a Saturday, [walking] the land. This is [also] the time more than any other when I will go to a sweat [lodge].

Sometimes I think we lose connection to who we are. We can intellectualize and theorize and philosophize about the nature of Jesus, [but] when you actually walk the land, you understand that God walked on this planet in a very particular way, and then you’re called to walk in that same path.

The Rev. Christine Brouillard-Coyle Essex, Ont.
Lent is a time to get rid of the distractions of life and focus. It allows us to focus on what God is calling us to. It’s not just something we do in the quiet of our homes; it is something we express in how we live.

This is the second year that Social Justice Huron has created a Lenten Social Justice Calendar, which offers suggestions for actions or prayers for each day of Lent. The calendar was published in the Huron Church News, but will also be posted on Social Justice Huron’s Facebook page.

Judy Steers Guelph, Ont.
We had a conversation with youth and young people about the things that people give up. It is meant to enhance your relationship with God and the world around you. One young person said, “I give up self-doubt.” And that led to a conversation about giving up negative habits, undesirable attitudes or destructive habits and things that don’t help our relationship with ourselves and, by consequence, our relationship with God. I like the idea of an intentional step toward something positive as opposed to a denial of something.

Matt Koovisk Kelowna, B.C.
I don’t really give up anything for Lent. I’ve never found that a beneficial practice for me. I immerse myself in prayer. I love liturgy and prayer and scriptures, so I tend to do more of that during Lent. I tend to try to read through the stations of the cross at home on Fridays, and read more of the early Christian writers, the spiritual fathers, all that kind of stuff during Lent, in addition to my prayer times.

Cynthia Patterson Quebec City
I try to be more intentional and spend much more time in prayer. I give up something. And then I fast on Wednesdays. I find it helps me connect with poverty all over the world, including outside my own door, and [from] a prayer perspective makes me keener and sharper. And the last thing is I take something called red rods and put them in water. They are very beautiful red bushes that grow wild in fields everywhere. By the time Easter arrives, they are producing leaves. So they go from something completely dormant that you cut out of the snow on Ash Wednesday to that beautiful yellowy-green of spring.

The Rev. Canon Dr. Judy Rois Toronto
Lent is a penitential season, traditionally a season to give up something-things like food or drink or social activities-to focus on spiritual things. I think that continues to work for some people. For others, it feels punitive, like going on a diet. They are OK for the first week and then they fall off the wagon and feel worse because they failed in their faith life, so to speak….

I am such a voracious reader. I get a couple of books for Lent and when Lent comes, I start into them. I’ve made it a really enjoyable thing that I look forward to, and I don’t fall off the wagon, so I don’t feel bad. I love it! If I finish my books in Lent, fine, and if I don’t, it doesn’t really matter. I just keep reading throughout the rest of the Easter season.

Archdeacon Paul Feheley Toronto
Without doubt, the most meaningful Lenten practice for me is the opportunity to study and engage people in conversation as we learn together. When I was the regional dean of the deanery of Oshawa, we organized a deanery-wide Bible study each Wednesday night in Lent. In other parishes, we used the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lenten book, which he commissions each year for congregations to use as a study resource. These books were always of a length and style that were helpful and the material was always “fresh.” This year’s Lenten book is called Love Unknown by Ruth Burrows. Over the years, [we also] have studied films. The congregation sees the movie and then later in church, we have the study and conversation about the film’s meaning and its application in our Christian lives.

Randy Murray Vancouver, B.C.
Personally, I find the experiences of Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday very powerful and for me, that sets the tone for the next 40 days. I often take on the role of pancake chef at my home parish of Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver, and I always attend at least one Imposition of Ashes Eucharist.

I don’t give things up or purposefully add new spiritual practice or disciplines into my regular routine and if someone were to ask me my Lenten intentions, I would likely respond with something cheeky like, “I’m giving up Lent for sex!”

Usually spring arrives early on the west coast and that often coincides with the beginning of Lent. The lengthening of the days and the late winter sunshine create an atmosphere conducive to meditation, reflection and growth in my faith life.

Although this is a pretty corny metaphor, my Lenten journey does parallel what is happening in nature as the croci, daffodils and tulips begin to bloom. I think about my own mortality, I think about those loved ones who have finished their lives on earth and I think about the legacies they have left for me. I focus more at this time on the significance of the gospel messages and how I can bring them more effectively into my vocation as a Christian communicator.

So if you see me taking public transit during the days of Lent, I probably won’t be reading and I won’t have my earbuds in, but I will be in a reflective place. And during that journey, I may discover some deep truth about my spiritual journey in faith or I might not. But whatever the result, the trip is always worth it.

Cydney Proctor Halifax
I’ve tried not eating meat for Lent and fasting, but they both failed, probably because of a lack of accountability. Most successful was the Lenten swear jar imposed by my roommates. I can get a bad case of sailor’s mouth so it filled up pretty quickly at first, but by the end of Lent, I wasn’t even thinking to swear anymore.

It’s kinda silly, but curbing an unseemly habit for Lent seems like a good thing. My swearing came back, but nothing like it was. I realized that my task benefited our little community. It made me think about words and their effect on those around me, and how it makes me seem to others, and what I was projecting about myself to the world. It was eye-opening.

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